Wednesday - 16th August
As Harry predicted, there was no report of Jackson being found in or around Jack's cabin. The television broadcasts were more successful. Too successful in fact.
"What's the problem with them, apart from the poor quality? It's good enough for elimination purposes."
But Daniel was shaking his head. "Look at them, then look at me."
Sam did so, mystified. Then the penny dropped. "They're all clean-shaven... Damn!"
"Yeah. Harry had me let my beard grow to disguise me a little. So Jackson might be bearded too - with glasses or with contact lenses - black hair, red hair, blonde, - buzz cut - completely shaved..." He sighed. "Perm any combinations thereof! We have no idea what he may look like by now..."
"Hm, I've an idea," Sam said and left the office. She came back a short while later with a handful of papers. "These might help. Janine in accounts did them for me."
Daniel took a look at them and grimaced. "Kind of makes my point," he muttered as Jack joined them.
"Hey, who's the egg-head?" he asked.
"Guess!" Daniel replied, holding the picture up beside his face.
Jack's face fell. "Oh," he said. "Looks like we have a problem."
Silence settled on the group like an unseasonable blanket of thick snow as each pondered the problem.
Finally, Harry broke the silence. "Can you give me computer access?"
"Why?" Jack asked suspiciously. It was a kind of Pavlovian reaction.
"Maybe I can follow an electronic paper trail." As Jack still looked dubious, he went on, "Well, he's carrying fifty grand around with him, some of which will be in high denomination notes for easy transport away from here. He won't want to carry that much around with him for long, and I figure the simplest solution is to open a new bank account - or several."
"I think he might run into problems there," Jack said, "problems like having no proof of identity, no Social Security number, yadda, yadda."
"He'll have all my documentation," Daniel scowled.
"Your account's been temporarily frozen."
"So he's managed to access it but I won't be able to? Assuming they've actually gotten around to freezing it now." Daniel said in glacial tones. He thought for a moment. "Harry, you said you went through my personal effects after Jackson threw me back into your world. Was there a wallet, driving license, personal papers and such like there, by any chance?"
"No. There wasn't," Harry said, looking grim. "I should've registered that anomaly and I didn't. I was just so goddamn' pleased to've got Jackson where I wanted him, as I thought, that I got sloppy."
"Well, you're not alone in that," Jack sighed, putting a comradely hand on Harry's shoulder. He was beginning to appreciate that this man really wasn't his bête noire. "We screwed up along the way too."
"Don't suppose you happen to know his Social Security number do you? Assuming you use them?" Daniel asked.
"Oh, yeah, like I carry round lots of numbers like that in my head," Harry said with some asperity He drew a deep breath. "Five two one - seven two - three six nine one What? Look, for him, I make a lot of exceptions."
"Oh. Well, that isn't my number. The group numbers are two seven in my SS number."
"But the rest are the same?" Daniel nodded. "Great," Harry responded glumly.
"What? Why? His number's still different from mine. So far as banks are concerned, rules are rules. He can't use my number."
"Look, I know him. In the first instance, he'll be so heartbreakingly charming that the teller probably won't even notice the two interchanged digits. If she - or he - does, he'll point out with a smile that someone, somewhere, obviously made a typo. But it's ok, he appreciates that everyone makes a mistake sometime and he doesn't mind - really. Besides, he's wanting to open a bank account, not draw out a large amount so he has no intention of making a complaint about it... By which time, the teller will be right where he wants her, and will be apologizing on the bank's behalf. If not, then he'll ask, politely, to speak to the manager, at which point the teller will be thinking that maybe he will make a complaint, and if the manager has to apologize to this very charming and reasonable customer, the teller's name will be mud - for a while at least. Rules may be rules, but he's very good at manipulating them to his advantage. At least one teller will fall for it, probably more than one, so don't bet against it."
The snowbound silence returned.
"You reckon you could follow a paper trail using our computers?" Jack said at last. The native Harry Maybourne was a bit of a whizz kid when it came to intell. gathering. Maybe this one could do it too, assuming their systems were compatible with Harry's expertise. "I can give it a try."
" It would expedite matters considerably if you could get me high-level security clearance so I don't have to do too much hacking," Harry smiled.
"Oy!" Jack rolled his eyes. He hadn't quite accepted Harry batting for the home team just yet, and he shuddered to think of the consequences if the other Maybourne got wind of his new level of access. "Ok. I'll have a word with Hammond."
In the event, the application turned out to be unnecessary. Hammond joined them a short while later to announce in puzzled tones that one, Harold Archimedes Maybourne, already had top security clearance...
Jack in particular was stunned by that particular curve ball! "Archimedes?!"
"What?" exclaimed everyone else except Harry who said indignantly, "My middle name's Hugh."
"Well never mind that now. You may as well take advantage of this clearance, Agent Maybourne," Hammond decided. "I'll look into how this came about later when we have our intruder safely in custody."
"I've just thought of something," Harry said suddenly, "something the rest of you could look into while I'm working."
Jack looked a little put out the suggestion that he wasn't actually working. "Oh yes?" he said, po-faced.
"It just occurred to me that Jackson has an ocean-side villa. It's a likely place for him to head for. He'll probably realize that Daniel doesn't own the same property, but he knows the area very well - pretty much as well as Colorado Springs - so he'll have an idea of places where he can hide out. Once he establishes that Daniel has no connections with the place, he might decide it's a good place to hole up and wait for the fuss to die down, and there, we have him at an advantage."
"We do?" Jack gave him a skeptical look.
"Again, putting ourselves in Jackson's shoes," Harry explained, "he knows he's failed in his attempt to replace Daniel "
"Hey! No one could replace Daniel," Jack said, taking the opportunity to do a little belated bridge-building. He was rewarded with a surprised but happy smile.
"Thank you, Jack."
"Anyway," Harry continued, "He also knows you're hunting him down - or trying to. He's managed to stay one or two steps ahead of you and this may encourage him to think that you constantly underestimate him - that he can always outsmart you - and so get careless. I say 'may' because now that he's adrift from his support team, he may take infinitely more care. But. A couple of things he doesn't know: that you have Daniel back and that I'm here. He may suspect, certainly the former, but he doesn't know. Wonder what he made of the coverage of the search for David Johnson...?"
"You make a good case, Agent Maybourne," Hammond said. "Where exactly is this villa?"
"Ah. The State of Chantlitepetl on the west coast. Know it?"
"Mountain home," Daniel translated.
"Well that could be anywhere from the Mexican border to the Canadian border," Jack exclaimed, unimpressed.
"The name's Nahuatl Aztec, Jack. I'm thinking California is favorite."
"Why not come up to my lab.?" Sam suggested. "Maybe we can find what we're looking for on Google Earth. When we're done, Harry can use my computer to access the mainframe."
Jackson's villa was rapidly identified as being right on the coast near Santa Barbara - Vista del Isla Drive. With that information, Harry got started 'doing his thing' with the computer. Sam stayed with him as information back-up for when Harry's system was at variance with the S.G.C.'s. Jack, Daniel and Teal'c went back to the briefing room to continue researching the results of the appeal in the light of the new information.
Before they started, Teal'c said, "Daniel Jackson, although you are not this other man, you are nevertheless the one most likely to work out how his mind might work. If you were in his situation, what would you do?"
"Good question, Teal'c. In a way, I have been in his shoes. Initially, I had no idea what was going on. I'd been zatted twice in fairly close succession, so I wasn't on top form "
"Fucking bastard!" Jack exclaimed. That was something Daniel hadn't mentioned before. Thinking of what could've happened made his blood run cold. And it would've been all his fault. He might now have Daniel's death on his conscience.
"Yeah, well. I'm still here," Daniel responded gently, reading Jack's face pretty accurately. "Anyway, I had Jackson's team helping me to break out of jail. They knew what they were doing and where they were going. I didn't have to do anything except go along for the ride and not give myself away. Till we crashed anyway. Then, fortunately, Harry was around. More fortunately, he's a very smart guy who was prepared to question his attitude to Jackson and realize that I wasn't him."
"He's a better man than I am then," Jack said sadly, still beating himself up over his mistreatment of his colleague. His friend.
Daniel, seeing the way Jack's thoughts were going, decided he needed to break into the guilt trip.
"Jack! Would you please snap out of it and concentrate!"
"What?" Jack still seemed to be mentally elsewhere.
"This fucking pity party you seem to have going!"
"Hey! It isn't a " Jack stopped and cracked a broken laugh. He dragged a hand across his face. "Right. Thanks! I needed that."
"'S ok. We all need a kick up the ass now and again," Daniel smiled.
"Some more than others, O'Neill," Teal'c observed, raising on eyebrow.
"Yeah. Please continue, Daniel."
"Well, that's about it, really," Daniel shrugged apologetically.
"So, supposing you were in the center of the Springs with fifty grand and little more than you stand up in, what would you do?"
"Ideally, I'd want to go through the 'Gate or the Mirror, but I'd realize that wasn't likely to happen, so like Harry said, I'd try to get as far away as possible and as quickly as possible, then lie low for while until I felt I could blend in."
"How would you do this, Daniel Jackson?"
"Probably in small stages initially, so I wouldn't register highly on anyone's radar - take the first bus - get off half an hour into the journey then do the same again, maybe a couple of times more, and going in different directions - north then east then south-west kind of thing - to throw sand in the eyes of the pursuit. By then, it would be getting towards evening, so I'd look for some place to spend the night - somewhere small and cheap but respectable. Today, I'd probably spend the morning at a library or internet café, checking out the differences between the two worlds to avoid making obvious gaffs. In the afternoon, I'd buy money orders from convenience stores and use them to open small accounts at several banks, also like Harry suggested. Then I'd go shopping because I'd probably need some... Ah...!"
"Some ah, Daniel?"
"I think we ought to go to my apartment and see what he's taken from my closets."
"Good point. We'll do that when we've finished here. For the moment, please carry on with your plan of action Doctor Evil..."
"Thank you, Jack," Daniel said making a face. "Well assuming I've taken a smallish suitcase and a holdall with some smart casual clothes, then I'd probably buy some second hand clothes that I wouldn't care about getting messed up. I'd buy a laptop and necessary peripherals, and I'd buy a vehicle of some sort, something that wouldn't attract too much attention - probably a second-hand transit van, but with no writing on it. Anonymous. If possible, it would've been customized with shelving and such like, so anyone looking in the back would assume it belonged to workman - painter/decorator kind of thing - with not a lot worth stealing in it. I could hide my valuables in there. I'd also buy an inflatable mattress so I could sleep in it if necessary. Maybe some sheets from a thrift store, both to use as sheets and also to suggest a decorator's dust sheets. I might even buy some paintbrushes and a pot or two of paint. Then, like Harry said, I'd probably drive to somewhere familiar to hide out. When the money ran out, I'd start looking for work - if possible in one of my fields of experience. If I remember correctly, Jackson has doctorates in cryptology, linguistics and psychology."
While Daniel was talking, Teal'c had been sorting through the David Johnson reports, arranging them by state and frequency. He selected several as being the most likely and laid them out:
Eleven people claimed he got on a local bus heading west at Woodland Park around midday.
Eight people placed him on a greyhound heading for Minnesota also around midday. A woman who'd sat next to him, reported that he'd said he was heading for something that sounded like Sappermakan. It was a small place west of the state capital, he'd explained, as she didn't know the place. She left the bus at Castle Rock.
Seven people saw him board a greyhound bound for Wichita in Dodge City around 1530.
Six people had seen him in Denver around 1400, including one who'd been on the greyhound heading for Minnesota.
Three people put him on a greyhound going to El Paso. Of these, one had seen him boarding the greyhound in Denver at around 1430. The other two both saw him dozing on the bus. One was traveling between Pueblo and Trinidad around 1630 to 1800. The other had gotten on at Aguilar at 1725 and alighted at Santo Domingo at 2306.
"He appears to be traveling north, south east and west," Teal'c commented drily as Sam and Harry arrived.
"Time to pool our resources then," Jack said. "Whatcha got, Teal'c?"
Teal'c went through his collection. The commonest sighting suggested 'David Johnson' was heading west, which would suggest he was California bound. Mitigating against this was that this was a local bus traveling in a limited along back roads. Not the best choice for a speedy escape. And then there was the timing.
"Between 1130 and 1150," Harry said, "he was setting up a couple of bank accounts and withdrawing fifty grand from Daniel's account."
"That doesn't leave him enough time to get to Woodland Part by midday," Sam said.
"Around midday, Carter. People generalize. Could've been nearer 1230."
Sam opened her lap-top and checked the timetable. "Arrive 1203, depart 1205. Guess it was just someone that just happens to look like Daniel then."
"So he's not heading west, or at least not that way," Jack said. He was less pleased to hear that the next most popular sighting had him traveling in the direction of Minnesota.
"Just a minute, where did you say the woman said he was going?" Harry asked.
"She said it sounded like Sappermakan," Teal'c replied.
"I don't recognize the name," Jack said, "but then I don't know every small settlement in the state."
"The witness said that it is west of the state capital," Teal'c added.
"Bingo! That's our guy," Harry said. "Has to be. I have heard of Sapamakan. It's a Lakota name."
"I think you're right, Harry," Jack agreed. "Minnesota's Chippewa territory "
"Or was, once upon a time..." Daniel put in.
"Not only that," Harry continued, ignoring the interruption, but the clincher is that he didn't name the state capital. He slipped up naming Sapamakan - needed to cover the slip but couldn't name the state capital in case it was different here."
"Dammit! The bastard is heading for my cabin!" Jack growled.
"I don't think so, Jack. There are no mentions of him on that bus after Denver," Daniel pointed out, "and the witness left the bus at the stop before Denver." He thumbed hastily through the reports. "Moreover, he was seen in Denver."
"And around 1400, he set up a coupla more bank accounts - just small stuff, but could be added to later of course," Harry put in.
"Right," Daniel continued, "He was seen getting on another greyhound in Denver, headed for El Paso this time, and two other witnesses put him on the same bus at four other places en route for El Paso."
"Heading for the Mexican border?" Sam wondered.
"Maybe, or maybe not," Daniel said. "The last witness left the bus before Albuquerque. If Harry's right about Jackson having a property in Santa Barbara, then it would make sense to get off at Albuquerque. From there, the I40 is a pretty direct route."
"Sounds like a visit to Albuquerque is in order," Jack nodded.
"With a detour to my apartment to check out what's missing. I'd like to have a shave and a change of clothes too, while I'm there."
During the detour, General Hammond arranged air transport between Peterson A.F.B. in the 'Springs and Kirtland A.F.B. in Albuquerque, along with a staff car at the other end and co-operation for anything else they might need as a matter of extreme urgency in a matter of National Security.
SG-1, all in civvies, plus Agent Maybourne found a twin-engined C-12 Huron ready and waiting for them on the runway when they arrived at Peterson.
"Not exactly Air Force One," Jack commented, "but beats a greyhound any day."
"Wonder if they'll let me fly her," Sam said wistfully.
"Oh god, I hope not," Daniel muttered, taking in the slightly manic glint in her eye.
"Ever flown one before?" Jack asked.
"No, but after the F-16, it'll be a breeze."
"I'm thinking the answer will be a no, then." Daniel breathed a sigh of relief, but that relief was short-lived, along with Major Dowland's resistence to Sam's wheedling. After all, what harm could it do? It wasn't like she was a rookie.
They'd just crossed the Sangre de Cristo range, so he continued climbing to 20,000 feet. "Ok, change places with Captain Kallis, Major," Dowland said.
Sam swapped places with the co-pilot with great alacrity and a cry of "Fasten your seatbelts, guys!"
She took several minutes to familiarize herself with the controls then executed a perfect barrel roll squealing with delight.
"Major Carter!" Dowland protested. "This is not a Viper, nor is it an aerobatics plane "
"Sure isn't! Way too sluggish. I could maybe soup it up a little for you..."
"No thank you, Major. The Air Force likes its planes the way they were built. Now I suggest you return to the rest of your team and send Captain Kallis back, if you please."
Sam capitulated having had her adrenaline surge for the day.
"Viper?" Jack asked as she retook her seat. "I thought the F-16 was the Fighting Falcon."
"Yes, it is, sir, but fighter pilots call them Vipers after the Battlestar Galactica starfighter."
"You seem to have something of a 'Thing' for snakes, Major Carter."
"Only the mechanical ones, Teal'c, only the mechanical ones. Those, I can control."
"That's a matter of opinion," Daniel said dourly, still looking slightly green around the gills.
The Huron touched down at Kirtland shortly after 1230. The waiting staff car drove the group to their first objective - the bus station. There they showed pictures of 'David Johnson' to both drivers and passengers, but without success.
"I think our next line of enquiry would be to investigate small hotels, B & Bs and such like within a fifteen minute walk of here," Daniel suggested. "He would've arrived at 2330 according to one driver I spoke to, and even if he slept on the bus, I think his first aim would be to get some proper sleep and then an early start this morning."
"Makes sense. Ok, let's spread out and get this done. We'll meet back here at... " Jack looked around, "the Frontier Restaurant at 1400."
At the third hostelry he tried, Daniel got lucky.
"Mr. Jackson?" said the woman on the desk. "It is Mr. Jackson, isn't it? You look quite different without the beard. I thought you were leaving town this morning. Are you wanting to stay another night?"
"Ah no. I think I left something in my room. Would it be possible for me to check or have you let it already?"
Daniel thought he might as well check it out in case his doppelgänger had left any clues. It seemed unlikely but while he was there and had the receptionist onside as it were, he took advantage of the opening she gave him. She took him up to room 8 on the second floor, opened the door then left him to it.
As he suspected - and he checked it very thoroughly, under the bed, in all the drawers, the closet, the bathroom - there was nothing left to find. Even if there had been, he suspected that the maid, however perfunctory her efforts were, would likely have removed it when cleaning up the room and making the bed.
Ah well, at least he knew where Jackson had spent the night. He couldn't very well question the receptionist about what his other self had done and said while there. He reached into the inner pocket of his leather jacket - thank goodness Jackson hadn't appropriated that! - for his comm. unit to report in so that Jack or Harry could continue the investigation.
Then the door flew open. A gravelly voice yelled, "Get yer hands in the air, fella, and don't try anything!"
Daniel turned, raising his hands as a uniformed officer, 9mil in hand, burst into the room, followed by two others.
"That's good. We don't want to hurt you, Mr. Johnson, but you gotta go back to the hospital, ok."
"I don't suppose there would be any point in telling you that I'm not David Johnson?"
"Absolutely none. We know you've lost your memory and ya think you're a Dr. Jackson."
"Fine. Then would you mind if I contact Colonel Jack O'Neill?"
He moved his left hand very slowly towards his inside pocket, watching the cops as he did. Unfortunately, before he could reach the comm., on of the cops spotted the Beretta in his shoulder holster.
"Boss, he's armed!"
Jack, Sam, Teal'c and Harry arrived at the Frontier Restaurant pretty much together. None of them had had any luck so far.
"Wonder what's happened to Daniel," Sam said.
"Maybe he found something," Harry suggested.
Jack thought about it. "Yeah, and he's a bit of a trouble magnet..."
Sam was looking worried now. "Surely he would've contacted one of us if he was in trouble?"
"If he could..." Jack tried to contact Daniel via his comm., but there was no response. He tried his 'cell phone. Just as he was about to give up, it connected.
An unfamiliar voice - female voice - said, "Who is this, please?"
"More to the point, who are you?"
There was a short pause, then a man spoke. "This is Sergeant Mendoza of the Albuquerque P.D., and you are?"
"Colonel Jack O'Neill, U.S. Air Force. I take it you have one of my men in custody?"
"Er, I don't know about that, Colonel O'Neill. This 'phone was on the person of a Mr. David Johnson. He's in custody awaiting transport back to the hospital, once we've tracked down which hospital he's escaped from."
"I trust he hasn't sustained any... damage?"
"No, sir. He's been relatively co-operative so far."
"Right, fine. Well, we'll be over to pick him up shortly. Just keep him there for the time being, ok."
"If you say so, Colonel."
"I do say so. O'Neill out."
"Has Daniel Jackson been arrested, O'Neill?" Jack snorted.
"No. David Johnson has."
"Good thing we put in that caveat about wanting him back unharmed then." Sam's face registered both dismay at what might have happened and relief that it hadn't.
The same feelings were going through Jack's mind too as he called the staff car's driver. He'd hardly broken the connection, when his cellphone rang.
"Colonel O'Neill, this is General Hammond. I've just had a call from the Albuquerque P.D."
"Yes sir, we're just on our way to collect Daniel now, sir."
"Good. I'll leave it in your hands then. I take it he's "
"Undamaged? Yes sir."
The four walked up the steps into the Albuquerque P.D. Jack asked for Sergeant Mendoza. He appeared from an office behind the reception desk.
"Colonel O'Neill. I called earlier."
Mendoza looked him up and down, then his gaze swept over the rest of the group. "I hope you'll pardon me I say you don't look much like a colonel?"
"What were you expecting? Kurt Russell maybe?" Jack produced his I.D. "We're in civvies because this is supposed to be a covert mission."
"Yes sir. Sorry sir."
"So if you could take me to my man, we'll be out of your hair a.s.a.p."
Jack followed the sergeant to the cells. Daniel, looking terminally bored, was sharing a cell with a big hunk of a bruiser who was sitting on the bench seat as far away from Daniel as he could get. Jack grinned. He'd enjoy hearing the story behind that one...
"Glad you could make it, Jack. My friend and I thought we'd have to start the party without you."
"Thought you already had," Jack said with a smirk in the direction of the bruiser.
"Oh, this is my friend, Jabba the Muppet. We've become very close - once he realized who was the boss."
Daniel turned to his cellmate and gave him an evil leer. The bruiser cringed further away, if that was at all possible, and all but whimpered. Jack barely choked back the laughter.
"So, can we go now, please Jack? The accommodation leaves much to be desired - like an absence of bars..."
"Ok, don't get snippy, Daniel. Sergeant?" Jack gestured towards the lock.
"I thought his name was David?" the sergeant said, not moving and looking a tad suspicious.
"If you remember, Sergeant - Mendoza, isn't it? - David Johnson, the man we are looking for, bears an uncanny resemblance to Dr. Jackson here. David Johnson is still at large and may be getting further away from us even as we speak. So if you don't mind..."
Sam gave Daniel a hug as he and Jack came out of the cells. "I take it you found something?" she smiled.
"I think we've got a lead, yes, but let's get out of here. I've seen enough of the insides of prison cells for the time being."
Jack laughed and tousled Daniel's hair affectionately. "Jailbird!"
Once Daniel had been officially released and had collected his belongings, he had the driver take them back to the bed and breakfast in Terrace Street South East. Jack led the way into the small hostelry while Daniel slipped in quietly at the back of the group.
Jack held up his I.D. "I'm Colonel O'Neill and I believe you had this man staying here last night." Sam held up the 'artist's sketch' of Daniel.
"We did, my dear," responded the receptionist, "but you're too late. The police took the psycho into custody a coupla hours ag-ohmygod!"
She drew back, much as the bruiser had done, as she suddenly noticed Daniel at the back. "Don't kill me! Please don't kill me!"
Daniel stepped forward giving the cowering woman his most reassuring smile. It didn't seem to be working. "Ah, I'm not actually the - erm - psycho, though he does look very much like me. In fact, we're trying to find him and I think you might be able to help us. I'm Doctor Jackson, by the way."
"What do you want to know?" She seemed more than willing to help; the sooner they got what they wanted, the sooner she'd be rid of her unwelcome visitors.
"I believe you indicated that - ah - David Johnson was wearing a beard?"
"Well, he was when he left this morning."
"What type of beard?"
"A full beard, but very short and neatly trimmed. Not much more than five o'clock shadow really."
She thought about it a while. "Jeans, white T and a blue linen jacket, I think."
"As we thought. Nothing too conspicuous," Sam commented.
"And those were definitely missing from my closet."
"At what time did David Johnson leave?" Teal'c asked.
"He had breakfast at six o'clock on the dot, collected his things, paid and left. Oh, and he paid cash."
There was a muted growl from Daniel as Teal'c continued. "Did he give any indication as to where he was going?"
"Well, he wasn't all that talkative really. He's one as keeps himself to himself. Oh... he did mention he has folks out east in Florida. And he was planning on visiting them in the near future."
Teal'c gracefully bowed his head. "Thank you. You have been most helpful."
"Is there anything else you can think of?" Daniel asked. "Anything - doesn't matter if it seems insignificant - it might turn out to be very important."
"Noo, I don't think s Oh, he did ask for directions to the nearest library."
"Thanks." Daniel gave her his most winning smile. It almost worked, but the smile in return didn't reach her eyes.
As no one could think of any more questions, they left, much to the receptionist's relief.
"Florida, Teal'c?" "A subterfuge, O'Neill. Among the holiday leaflets on the desk, was a pile for Florida. It bore both the state's name and an outline map."
"Good work, T. So we stick with plan A for the moment."
"Plan A, Jack?"
"Back to the bus station to check departures for the west coast."
"I already did that, sir."
"Of course you did, Carter... And?"
"Two Greyhound departures. One at 0705, which I think would be too early?" she said, looking at Daniel for confirmation. He nodded. "And one at 1715. I'm thinking he'd want to be long gone by then." Again Daniel nodded. "Then there's the railway. I checked that too. Only one departure, but it was at 1240, so he's long gone if he was on it."
Jack looked to Daniel and Harry for their input.
"He's already spent a long time on busses which are slow, not too comfortable and he's surrounded by potential witnesses, as we know. He may even have seen his picture in the media."
"Plus, if the authorities show up and board the bus, he's a sitting chicken," Harry added.
"Just ignore them, Harry. We say sitting duck here, but I think that's better," Daniel grinned. "In any event, if I were in his place, I would want to be more self-reliant - not tied to the vagaries of public transport. No, I think by now, he's gotten his own transport."
"Which gives us quite a problem," Jack said. "We can't very well visit every motor dealer. Needles... Haystacks..." Then he noticed that his 2IC was wearing what he thought of as her 'lightbulb look.' "Ok, Carter, let's have it."
She smiled back at him. "I don't think we need to go that far, sir. Daniel said he'd buy a computer plus peripherals, and maybe he has. But... the receptionist said he'd asked for directions to the nearest public library. Daniel suggested he might do that yesterday, with a view to learning about our world. Now most libraries these days have computers, so he might use one there to check out suitable vehicles."
"Good thinking, Carter."
They returned to their staff car and directed the driver to the nearest public library, hoping there weren't two equidistant ones. There were, but they struck lucky. The librarian at the first library they picked remembered the charming young man from the artist's sketch - full beard version.
He'd been a real relief after the gang of unruly teenagers who'd entered immediately before him. She hadn't paid him much attention initially, being tied up with the teens. He'd apparently managed to find himself an available computer and had settled down at it.
As she didn't recognize him, she'd asked if he were a member. He wasn't. He'd told her, somewhat apologetically, that he'd just arrived in town the previous day and was looking for available housing and transport as he was planning on relocating to Albuquerque with his family. He'd produced his driving license by way of I.D.
She'd taken pity on him and said that, as he had his own computer, it would be fine for him to use the free wifi. He'd thanked her, but said he already had the information he needed, and left.
"Can you remember which computer he used?" Sam asked.
"Oh sure. The second one along from the corner," the librarian replied. There was a sharp-faced woman using it.
"Could we take a look at it please? It's very important."
"We-ell, normally, I'd say you'd have to wait your turn but milady there is always monopolizing the computers and won't let others take a turn, soo... It'll be my pleasure," she grinned and went to turf her unwelcome borrower off the computer.
While they waited, the group discussed what type of vehicle Jackson would go for. Daniel's feelings on the matter were already known. The question was, would he go for anonymous, or would he go for speed?
Jack suggested that he might compromise and go for something like his beloved truck. "Since he went off in mine! He's obviously familiar with it now, if he wasn't before, and it has had - a fair turn of speed."
"If it was me," said Sam, "I'd go for a motor bike."
"Of course you would!"
"I don't mean a racing bike. A tourer - Electra Glide for instance. It has a fair amount of carrying capacity - enough for what we already know he has - and he won't get held up in traffic, can escape down alleys too narrow for a car and can possibly disappear off-road if needs be. Plus, if he's bought some biker gear, he will be anonymous, pretty much."
Everyone turned to Harry who was looking thoughtful and nodding slowly. "I think you might have it," he agreed. "It makes sense and if I remember correctly, he used to do motocross racing in his teens so he wouldn't need any lessons. He could just buy one and be on his way."
The librarian returned. "Ok, you're good to go."
Sam went through the machine's history, and was gratified to find that the last sites he'd accessed were about touring bikes. She printed off the details. There were eleven dealers on the list. It was going to take a while to visit them all. They therefore decided to split up; each would visit two dealers and, if nothing had turned up, meet up at the last one on the list.
Sam also ran off half a dozen photocopies of the artist's impression with full beard.
In the end, it was Sam who turned up the next clue. The first dealership she visited had several touring bikes in the showroom window and a 'CLOSED' sign on the main entrance. Fortunately for the owner, she was not that easily fooled. There was quite a number of legitimate reasons why a business man should shut up shop in the middle of the afternoon, and one that wasn't.
The main door was locked, so she went to the rear of the site and found a back door. She tried the handle and gave it a push. As the door swung open, she thought she heard a noise from one of the outbuildings and went to investigate.
"Hello? Anybody there?"
There was a dull banging sound and a muffled, "Mmmf...! Mm mmm MMMM!"
"Keep 'talking,'" she called, then followed the sounds to a small lean-to shed beside a larger building labeled 'Work Shop.' Its door was padlocked on the outside. Yep, definitely something fishy going on. "Hang on! I'll soon have you out."
Sam returned to the back door to see if the keys had been left in the lock inside. They hadn't - probably been tossed into the bushes surrounding the premises. Oh well, she'd just have to pick the lock. Not a problem.
Inside, a middle-aged man was gaffer-taped to a wooden chair. He also had gaffer-tape over his mouth. Sam quickly removed the tape from his mouth.
"Boy, am I glad to see you, missy!" he exclaimed. "I've been stuck like this for hours!"
"Sam Carter," she replied. "Pleased to meet you, Mr ?"
"Finneran - Bernard Finneran."
"Fine. I'll have you out of here as quickly as I can, Mr Finneran. What happened exactly?"
"A young man came into the store around midday lookin' to buy a tourin' bike. We found one he took a likin' to and we got down to the payment details. He said he'd pay cash - the askin' price was $8,750. I told him I didn't take cash - checks only - don't want the IRS on my back. So then he offered me ten grand if I'd take it in cash. I said I still wouldn't so then he says, 'Wrong answer.' He says it very quiet but menacin' like, if you gets ma meanin'? Then he pulls a gun and tells me to turn round, which I do. Nothin' else really I could do. I've an alarm but that's behind the desk, so I'd no chance of reachin' it before he'd shoot me. Anyhow, he cracks me on the cranium and when I wakes up, he's gone an' I'm in here, trussed up like a turkey. He seemed such a nice young man too, when he first came into my store," the dealer concluded as Sam finally freed him.
As expected, when they checked, the bike in question was gone.
"What sort of bike was it?"
"It was dark red," he said and got a hard look from Sam.
"Make and model," she qualified with some asperity.
"Ah. Sorry, ma'am. It was a 1991 Honda Goldwing GL1500 Aspencade in wineberry red," he said and was gratified to receive a bright smile this time.
"Right." She pulled out the artist's sketch to show him. "Did he look anything like this?"
Finneran gasped. "That's him to the life!" He gave Sam a wary look. "What's he done, exactly?"
"Done?" Sam replied innocently.
"Oh come on, Ms. Carter, I don't think it's any coincidence you showing up when you did - not that I'm not grateful, I am - very! I thought I was going to be stuck there till my son-in-law arrived."
"You're welcome. And you're right. It's not entirely coincidental. I can't really tell you anything except to say that you got off relatively lightly."
"I see," Finneran responded, clearly impressed - both by his visitor and his narrow escape.
"Oh, and can you remember what he was wearing?"
"Yes, I can as a matter of fact," he said, eager to help. "I thought it was a little odd at the time. Most of my customers are bikers, as you might expect, but this guy was just wearing jeans, a white T-shirt and a lightweight blue jacket. He was carrying a holdall and towing a small suitcase, but he had no leathers and no helmet either. In fact, he asked me for directions to the nearest store where he could buy some. That was before our 'disagreement' over the payment."
"And you sent him to?"
"Oh sorry," he said and directed her to an outfitters a couple of blocks along.
Sam checked in with her colleagues then, and they arrived at the outfitters not long after she did. The information she got there was not particularly helpful. Jackson had bought a set of black leathers and a black helmet with a tinted visor.
"Looks like he's got both speed and anonymity," Sam said glumly. "Oh, and the bike has sat nav, too."
"Now what?" Harry asked, looking at Jack.
"Now we call in the State Troops and I get Hammond to put a chopper at our disposal. The boundaries are spreading too far and too fast for just the five of us to handle. We need more eyes."
The State Troopers' brief was to watch out for biker in black leather gear riding a stolen deep red goldwing with New Mexico plates reading '.' If spotted, they were not to apprehend but to follow the vehicle covertly. Colonel O'Neill was to be contacted immediately.
Meanwhile, they returned to Kirtland A.F.B. to kick their heels in frustrated impotence. None of them was happy just doing nothing. While they waited, it was decided that they would get some sleep so as to be refreshed and ready for action whenever anything relevant occurred.
The light was fading into dusk as reports began to filter in. There were several reports of said biker buying gas from stations along the I40, which led them to suppose that he was indeed heading for California. Then, around 2130, came the report they really didn't want to hear.
Troopers Harrison and Treviño had been on patrol when the driver, Harrison, had noticed a single headlight in his mirror that indicated a biker. It was approaching fast, fast enough for him to pull the guy in for speeding. Mindful of the instruction not to apprehend, he'd accelerated to give himself a better chance to see the guy's licence plates as he passed the patrol car.
The rider had slowed down then. It could just have been a biker trying not to get a ticket but Harrison suspected this had tipped the guy off that he'd been made as he'd stayed well back. Harrison then slowed down a little to allow the biker to catch him. Eventually, the guy had apparently gotten tired of their little game of cat and mouse. He overtook and pulled in in front of the car. And stayed there. A few feet in front of the troopers. Like he was taunting them. Harry said that sounded like Jackson.
This position did at least give Treviño a prefect chance to eyeball the plate, . With hindsight, Jackson was several steps ahead in the game. He kept them on his tail for several miles then, at the last second pealed off sharply on to Highway 93 just west of Kingman, heading north-west. Harrison, taken by surprise, had no chance of following, having passed the end of the off-ramp.
"Shit, damn and buggery!" Jack exclaimed when he heard.
"What?" Harry asked, suddenly worried.
"He's heading for Area 51!"
"With respect, sir," Sam said, "we don't know that."
"Oh, I think we do, Carter." He took in her exasperated look and sighed. "Ok, go on. Let's hear it."
"He has sat. nav. so he knows how to get to where he's going."
"But a lot of the names are going to be unfamiliar and your roads don't necessarily follow the same routes as ours," Harry pointed out.
"So he would probably have bought a map," Sam replied.
"Or picked up a tourist information leaflet at the accommodation in Terrace Street."
"Like the Florida ones?" Jack asked, then wished he hadn't.
"No, O'Neill. Like this one." Teal'c produced a slim but comprehensive brochure of the American south-west which included a basic road map of California, Nevada, Utah and Arizona.
"Right. Go on, Carter."
"I don't think Area 51 is likely because, according to Harry, their universe doesn't have a facility like that. It's also unlikely that he even knows we have a quantum mirror, much less where it is."
"He has a computer," Daniel pointed out. "He might have been able to hack into our computers."
"Not without raising a big red flag."
"I wouldn't put it past him," Harry said looking glum.
"In any case," Sam went on bracingly, "he'd be looking for a... what? Allocosmic portal?"
Harry brightened. "You've got a good point there."
"So then what?" Jack asked, looking unconvinced.
"He might just've been trying to throw off his pursuers." Sam whisked Teal'c's brochure out of his hand. "See... Not far beyond the turn on to Highway 93, there's another turn off, on to state highway 163. He could then rejoin the I40 via Highway 95 - going north of Bullhead City instead of south - and continue on to the coast. Or maybe go the scenic route..."
"Yeah well, first I think we'll make a little side-trip to Area 51, just to be absolutely certain," Jack decided.